LAS VEGAS - One year ago, longtime University of Portland coach Jim Sollars labeled the Gonzaga Bulldogs the greatest women's basketball team in West Coast Conference history.
Alas, Sollars now says he was dead wrong.
“I think they are better than they were last year,” Sollars said before the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs hammered Portland, 96-71, on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals of the WCC tournament.
Former Kentwood High School star Courtney Vandersloot, leading NCAA Division I in assists for the second consecutive year, set a tournament record with 14 assists. Gonzaga’s senior point guard had tied the old record of 10 in 2009.
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Vandersloot added 16 points and four steals, and she had plenty of help. Four teammates scored in double figures, the Bulldogs outrebounded Portland, 42-26, and Gonzaga shot 56.9 percent from the field.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (27-4), riding a 17-game winning streak, gun for their third consecutive championship today against second-seeded Saint Mary’s (19-11). ESPNU televises the game at noon.
“If we can keep the game in the 60’s,” Gaels coach Paul Thomas said, “I think we have an opportunity.”
Good luck with that plan, Coach. Gonzaga leads the nation with 86.5 points per game, and the Bulldogs blasted Saint Mary’s 106-77 and 102-66 earlier this season.
“They’re extremely efficient,” Thomas said.
You don’t have to tell that to Portland star ReZina TecleMariam. The Bellarmine Prep graduate hit four 3-pointers and led the Pilots with 14 points – “ReZina is just a great player,” Zags coach Kelly Graves said.
“When their posts sprinted the floor and Courtney came down at the same time, I didn’t know who to guard,” TecleMariam said.
The Bulldogs dominated fourth-seeded Portland (16-15) in transition and outscored the Pilots in the paint, 50-28.
Kayla Standish, a 6-foot-2 forward, was 10-for-13 shooting and led Gonzaga with 23 points.
Janelle Bekkering scored 15 of her 17 points in the first half to help Gonzaga build a 44-21 lead at intermission. Former Washington Husky Katelan Redmon added 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds.